How To Find The Cheapest Flights To Anywhere By Google Flights
|Useful Tips To Find The Cheapest Flights To Anywhere. Photo KnowInsiders|
Budget conscious and savvy travelers know two things: How to find the cheapest hotels and cheapest flights. In this article, we’re going to show you exactly how you can book cheap flights every time you travel.
When to buy airline tickets?
There really is no hard and fast rule on the best time to buy international airline tickets.
However, there are some general trends to be aware of when looking for cheap air tickets.
Peak season and holiday weekends will have the most demand, so expect higher prices. You can, however, stack the odds in your favor by buying at a certain time.
In this study, they analyzed 560 million flight searches, found an optimal time to buy was on average 7 weeks in advance (for domestic flights). Others have suggested a sweet spot of between 3-7 weeks in advance.
The WORST time was within 14 days of flying, or too far in advance, more than 5 months.
For international flights, the study found the sweet spot is 11-12 weeks prior to departure. As for which day of the week to buy on, they suggest no particular day was better than the other and buying on a Tuesday and Wednesday was somewhat of an urban legend.
What is the best DAY to fly?
|Photo Elite Traveler|
Wondering what days to fly to save money on plane tickets?
It might not matter when you buy your tickets, but cheap flights can certainly be found depending on the DAY you choose to fly!
|Here are some examples of how you can help yourself get low air fares by knowing what to avoid: |
Season: Flight prices in and out of the UK explode from the end of July to the beginning of September. Airlines know that period is when the kids are off school so they inflate prices enormously because they know parents have no choice but to pay.
Holidays: Christmas, New Year, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day and Fourth of July are US holidays in which flight prices are marked up because the demand is high enough for airlines to charge more.
The consensus is that it’s best to FLY OUT on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. These are typical off-peak days with airlines carrying fewer business travelers, usually meaning lower fares and a surplus of seats. You also have a better chance of grabbing frequent flyer seats on these days (which we love).
Fridays and Sundays are usually the most expensive days to fly.
And don’t get confused with the idea that buying a ticket on a certain day will result in lower airfare. That’s a separate thing to the day you actually fly!
It has been suggested to try these combinations:
Domestic: depart Saturday, return on a Monday.
International: depart Tuesday, return on a Wednesday.
|Do not: It’s November and you decide to book off 3 random working weeks for the next year. Say a week in April, June and September. You have selected specific dates and will have to find flights to suit those dates. You will likely have to fly on weekends which are more expensive. |
Do: Search for flights (and hotels) in advance, follow the tips in this post and wait for the right time to book the cheapest flights to the cheapest destinations. Then book your time off work accordingly. You will likely fly on a weekday.
Learn How To Use Flight Search Engines Like An Expert
|Photo Journalist on the Run|
If you truly want to save money when booking your flights for any vacation or long term trip, you need to get on board (pun intended) with mastering search engines.
What Is A Flights Search Engine?
For the purposes of this explanation – an aggregator (eg Skyscanner) is a search engine. You can’t buy air tickets from Skyscanner. Instead Skyscanner will search booking sites, online travel agencies (OTA’s) and other search engines to find the most viable flight options for your dates and route.
When you click a flight, you will be taken to an external site (the online travel agency or booking site such as Kiwi, gotogate, cheap tickets, last minute etc) from where you will purchase your tickets.
Momondo was at one point just an aggregator but now also offers an option to buy tickets directly with them, making them an aggregator and OTA.
Example: You input London to New York and Skyscanner / Momondo go searching through all the resources it can get its hands on to find you a list of options. Aggregators take a small commission for referring you to the travel agency ie the work it put in on your behalf.
Which Flights Search Engine Should You Use?
Some search engines are better than others. Better because they will consistently give you cheaper flight prices, more filtering options and more user friendly features.
You should always shop around for the best deal every time before buying your plane tickets.
As you begin to use each of the platforms, one will feel easier to navigate and you will end up using that platform as your baseline.
Personally, we almost always book our flights with Skyscanner. At the very least we use Skyscanner as our reference price point and then try to beat a flight price on Momondo.
Popular Flight Search Engines
If you’ve never used Skyscanner before, we’ll very quickly explain a basic search so you can follow along with the Actions in our cheap flight booking tips sections.
Open skyscanner.com and set your language / currency (top right) if it isn’t already set correctly.
You’ll see the search box with options for: Round Trip, One Way and Multi City. We will explain which of those to select in each tip section.
‘From’ and ‘To’ fields can be populated by any country, city or airport, which is incredibly useful and offers exceptional flexibility.
Departure and Return dates can be selected by ‘Specific Date’ or ‘Whole Month’ – another very useful tool.
Cabin class & travelers you will always select economy (because you are finding the cheapest flights!) and 1 traveler unless stated otherwise.
So, to start a basic search: Select One Way, From New York, To London, Depart Whole Month April, 1 Adult Economy, Hit search flights!
You’ll see a list appear with all dates in April, plus green, orange and red dots with prices.
This shows you the prices of flights from New York to London on every day in April.
Click on any of them and press Show Flights.
A list of flight options appear, sorted by Skyscanner’s algorithm of best value vs time ratio.
You can choose to show options listed by Best, Cheapest and Fastest.
Search down the list to see all flight options for that particular route on that particular day.
If prices are similar, we book on Skyscanner because we find it the easiest to use.
Pro-tip: One thing to know if you’re based in or visiting the US – Southwest airlines do not allow any third party flights search engine to display their flights. You have to book directly, which is quite frankly annoying. However, they do have competitive prices and free baggage so it is worth checking the Southwest site.
|Skyscanner Pros And Cons |
• Major Pros: Consistently low prices, search by month function allows you to visualize cheapest flights in any month. Search by whole country function is incredibly useful (most only offer city or even specific airport).
• Other Pros: Easy to use, works best for flexible searches, price alerts, change currency and language, sorts by ‘best’, ‘cheapest’ and ‘fastest’ flight options, search by everywhere is travel inspiration heaven.
• Cons: Sometimes prices aren’t real-time accurate on search by month function.
• Major Pro: Consistently low prices, visuals are impressive.
• Other Pros: Stylish design, offers a ton of options including buses and trains if requested, displays by ‘best’ and ‘cheapest’ options. Loads real-time prices for up to 3 days either side of selected date on one way searches, has a similar ‘Explore’ map function to Google Flights.
• Cons: Can only search by date +/- 3 days, booking multi-city flights with different airlines means you have book on different reservations. Searching (for example) Paris to Rome flights cheapest option is a .fr site and reservation site is in French.
You already have Skyscanner open, now open a new Momondo tab for the action below.
Momondo is set up similarly to Skyscanner with the basic search fields.
Find the cheapest flight with Google Flights
Step 1. Enter your home airport on Google Flights
Head to Google Flights and enter your originating airport. If you live near more than one, you can enter up to five. For this example, I’ll use my home airport of Cincinnati.
Don’t enter a destination airport. You can enter your desired dates, but if you’re flexible, there’s no need. Don’t pay attention to those boxes.
Step 2. Search with the destination blank
The destination box says “Where to?” If you click on that box, you’ll be presented with a list of broad destinations (like Europe, United States, etc.) Don’t enter anything into the box — just click “Search.”
Step 3. Select dates
A map now appears with prices for flights from my home airport to various destinations around the U.S. Click on the dates located in the top left corner of the page. You’ll see two tabs:
Click “Flexible dates.”
Step 4. Choose flexible dates
You can choose how flexible you want to be by selecting either the month you’d like to travel or simply selecting “All.” This second option will search for all flights within the next six months. This is the option I like to use. If the deal is good enough, it doesn’t much matter when it is — I’ll build my PTO around it.
If you’re searching for a round-trip flight, you must also choose between three trip lengths: Weekend, 1 week or 2 weeks. This is a bit restrictive, But if you search for one-way flights instead, you don’t have to choose a trip length.
Step 5. Lower the maximum ticket price
If we’re looking for the absolute cheapest places to go, drag the price filter on the side of the page to the left. This will clear the clutter of higher-priced flights, and leave you with only the astoundingly cheap ones. As you can see, I’m able to fly from Cincinnati to Charleston, New York, Miami, Las Vegas and more for under $100 round-trip.
To the left of the page, you’ll see the information for each flight on the map. You can view the airline and the dates for which this price applies.
Step 6. Search international flights (hubs preferred)
You can also zoom the map way out to view the entire world at once. Searching with flexible dates, you’ll be amazed at the random deals that pop up from your home airport. Note that if you intend to book an international flight, you’ll likely save money by searching from your nearest international hub airport. I personally like to search from international gateways near me, like Chicago. For example, you can find tons of round-trip coach flights to Europe for under $400!
After you click on the destination you want, you’ll get a rundown of available flights on the left side of the page. Again, Google will tell you which dates offer the lowest price. You need only beware of low-cost carriers that charge exorbitant fees for things like carry-on bags and seat selection. If you can’t travel light, you may end up paying more in fees than for your actual airfare. Here’s Allegiant, a low-cost carrier offering an $84 round-trip to Key West. Carry-on bags cost a minimum of $20 each way, and checked bags cost a minimum of $35 each way.
Six Tips to Book the Cheapest Flight Tickets
1.Keep your searches top secret
You're not crazy for thinking that a flight price has changed after searching it a few times in your web browser. Based on the cookies in your browser, flight prices do increase when a particular route is repeatedly searched, as the site wants to scare you into booking the flight quickly before prices get even higher. Always search for flights in incognito or private browsing mode to see the lowest prices.
In Google Chrome or Safari, incognito is enabled by hitting Command (or “Control” if using PC), Shift, “N”. For Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer, hit Command (or “Control” if using a PC), Shift, “P”. This will open a new browser window where your information is not tracked, thus not inflating prices as you search. Note: if you're using an older version of OS X, open Safari then click “Safari” in the menu bar, and select “Private Browsing”.
Your cookies are reset each time you re-open an incognito window. So if you want to start with a clean slate for each flight search (so your previous searches aren't “remembered”, potentially inflating costs), close all your incognito windows, open a new one, and then perform your flight search.
2. Avoid holiday periods when flying
I know, it’s and obvious tip when searching for cheap air tickets.
But try not to fly up to 7 days before or after a major holiday period. However, certain strategies such as flying on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day (when the flight attendants are extra nice) or even on September 11 can save you a penny.
And we’ve all heard of the term “tourist season”.
Europe in the summer is peak tourist season. Consider visiting in the off-months instead. Sure the weather might be a bit cooler, but the prices for flights (and accommodation) will be lower, and there will be less people lined up at popular attractions.
3. Adjust the time of day for flying
If you can’t change the date of your flight, play around with the time of day you choose to fly, which can change the price of your air ticket dramatically.
Flying at unpopular hours, such as the red-eye or early in the AM instead of late morning through afternoon, increases your chance of getting the best deal. Most of the time, the cheapest flights leave either very early in the morning or late at night.
4. Fly where the deals are
This is one of our best travel tips on how to find cheap flights to anywhere!
Instead of choosing a destination and then spending days or weeks trying to find a flight deal, considering flying to where the cheap flights already are!
Choose a destination you can comfortably afford and one you’ll enjoy. Use a flight search engine like Skyscanner that lets you type in your departure city and search for a list of cheap flights to anywhere in the world. If you are flexible with where you want to go, these are handy tools and fun to play around with.
5. Consider hidden city ticketing
Travellers long ago discovered a trick known now as “hidden city” flights. In a nutshell, sometimes a flight that connects in a city you want to go to is cheaper than flying directly to it. So instead, you book that cheap flight which connects in your desired city and hop off there, not taking the ongoing connection.
It should go without saying this is risky for many reasons. Here are some factors to consider:
If your luggage is checked, it may go on to the final destination. For this reason, with hidden city ticketing it's best to have carry-on luggage only.
You may not be allowed off the plane (if the same plane is continuing onward to its final destination).
Airlines may detect that you did not take your connection. The consequences of this are hard to say, especially since people miss flights all the time.
There is now a web search engine which finds hidden city tickets for you. It's called Skiplagged and was even sued by United Airlines who were angry about this debatable hack. We have never used the hidden city approach, but I know several who have, and they've scored some thrifty savings. Use at your own risk!
6. Check if it's cheaper to pay in other currencies
Before booking a flight, consider if the rate is cheaper if paid in another currency. Often budget airlines will make you pay in the currency of the country you're departing from, but this isn't always the case. An important note when doing this: make sure you're using a credit card that is free of foreign-transaction fees, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, otherwise your attempts to save money doing this will be lost! Our article on money matters for world travellers can help steer you in the right direction for the best credit cards for travel.
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